Manufacturing controversy

Darwin Devolves cover

If you read the same blogs I do, you’re no doubt aware that Nathan Lents, Joshua Swamidass, and Richard Lenski published a not-very-flattering review of Michael Behe’s new book, Darwin Devolves, in Science. As you would expect, various members of the Discovery Institute, including Dr. Behe himself, have responded to the review. I haven’t read Darwin Devolves yet, so I there’s a lot on both sides of the argument that I won’t try to evaluate.

What I am going to talk about is the attempts, mostly by David Klinghoffer, to imply that there is something underhanded about the review itself. Klinghoffer takes issue not just with the content of the review, but with its authorship and timing:

Three? Why Not One?

Why was it [the Lents et al. review] written and published in this way? It’s odd to review a book that hasn’t been publicly released yet.

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John Tyler Bonner announcement from Princeton

John Tyler Bonner

John Tyler Bonner
Photo by Denise Applewhite, Princeton University Office of Communications.

Close on the heels David Kirk, another of my scientific heroes, John Tyler Bonner, died two weeks ago. Now Princeton University has published an announcement that gives some background on Bonner’s life and career:

A three-time chair of the Department of Biology, Bonner served on the Princeton faculty for 42 years and remained active teaching and researching for more than two decades after transferring to emeritus status in 1990.

Primary among Bonner’s accomplishments were his discoveries about the behavior of slime molds, which are found in soils throughout the world. He led the way in making Dictyostelium discoideum a model organism central to examining some of the major questions in experimental biology.

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Reminder: tomorrow is the deadline for the Kato Memorial Bioscience Foundation travel fellowship

¥50,000 is ¥50,000! Applications for travel fellowships from the Kato Memorial Bioscience Foundation for the Fifth International Volvox Meeting are due tomorrow. These fellowships are to help non-Japanese students and postdocs travel to Tokyo for the meeting. ¥50,000 is around $500, a pretty good return for an easy application. Answer a few questions, send an email, and your trip could be $500 cheaper:

Applicants are required to submit a pdf file of the completed application form (download here) to Volvox2019 Office (E-mail: volvox2019 (at)

The Royal Society of Biology deadline is also coming up soon (March 1).

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Say hello to Volvox zeikusii!

Volvox zeikusii

Figures 13-20 from Nozaki et al. 2019*. Light microscopy of female strain of Volvox zeikusii Nozaki. Abbreviations: c, cytoplasmic bridges; d, daughter spheroid or developing embryo; e, egg; i, individual sheath; p, pyrenoid; s, stigma.
Figs 13–19. Asexual spheroids. Fig. 13. Optical section of spheroid. Scale bar = 50 μm. Fig. 14. Optical section of spheroid stained with methylene blue. Scale bar = 50 μm. Fig. 15. Front view of somatic cells showing cytoplasmic bridges. Scale bar = 20 μm. Fig. 16. Front view of somatic cells showing individual sheaths of the gelatinous matrix stained with methylene blue. Scale bar = 20 μm. Fig. 17. Lateral optical section of somatic cells positioned in anterior region of spheroid. Scale bar = 20 μm. Fig. 18. Surface view of somatic cells positioned in anterior region of spheroid. Scale bar = 20 μm. Fig. 19. Surface view of newly formed daughter spheroid. Scale bar = 50 μm. Fig. 20. Sexual female spheroid. Scale bar = 200 μm.

Hisayoshi Nozaki and colleagues have discovered a new species of VolvoxVolvox zeikusii. Or more accurately, they have discovered new strains of an old species and decided that some of the old strains with that name are something else.

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Travel fellowships for Volvox 2019

Volvox 2019 logo

Registration for the Fifth International Volvox Conference (July 26-29, 2019) will open next month, but meanwhile there are several opportunities for students and postdocs to apply for financial help. The newest of these (and the one with the nearest deadline) is a set of five travel awards from the Kato Memorial Bioscience Foundation:

Funding from the Kato Memorial Bioscience Foundation for five travel awards for overseas (i.e. non-Japanese) students (PhD, Masters, undergraduates) and postdocs for Volvox 2019, 26-29 July, Tokyo is now available. Travel awards are 50,000 yen per person (~$500 US) and will be distributed at the Volvox 2019 registration desk by the local organizers, on 26 July 2019.
Applicants are required to submit a pdf file of the completed application form (download here) to Volvox2019 Office (E-mail: volvox2019 (at) by February 20, 2019. Five awardees will be chosen based on their abstract and need for financial support. The successful applicants will be informed by March 1, 2019. Travel receipts must be submitted to the local organizers at the conference to be eligible for reimbursement.

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John Tyler Bonner has died

John Tyler Bonner

John Tyler Bonner, ca. 1957. Image from the Guggenheim Foundation.

Developmental biologist John Tyler Bonner has passed away. Bonner was a giant, as far as I’m concerned, and his writings have had a big influence on me. I won’t attempt to eulogize him, since I’m sure there will be others closer to him who will do a better job than I could. As I’ve written previously,

Among many other contributions, Bonner was a pioneer in the development of the social amoeba (or cellular slime mold) Dictyostelium discoideum as a model system for multicellular development and cell-cell signaling. A member of the National Academy of Sciences and a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, he has published over twenty books and mountains of peer-reviewed papers.

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Evil polyps enslave innocent algae using light

Imagine you’re swimming in nice, warm water, happily making your own food without a care in the world (other than zooplankton). You just need to store up enough starch before nightfall to hold you through the night so you can quit swimming, absorb your flagella, and wait for the sun’s return. You see a green light below, and you swim toward it. You can’t help yourself; your phototactic machinery is hardwired to respond.

Next thing you know, you’re captured by a giant, tentacled polyp. You look for a way out, but there is none. You’re stuck there for the rest of your life, forced to work and have the food you produce stolen by your coral overlord. Resigned to your fate, you absorb your flagella and get down to photosynthesizing.

Aihara et al. 2019 Fig. 2A

Figure 2A from Aihara et al. 2019. the coral Echinophyllia aspera and its algal captives under natural light conditions (Scale bar, 1 cm.).

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